John & Brenda's Excellent European Adventure - Part Deux travel blog

Cheryl And Brenda Prepare Oranges For Our Salad Dressing

The Chocolate Dessert Takes Shape

A Bouquet Of Veg

Chef Jim Slices The Magret

John's Dinner Is Served

Our Last Supper

Graduation Portrait (Courtesy Robert Smith)

August 5, 2011

Thursday’s sun had given way to Friday’s rainy mist as we slowly began our day. The dinner menu for our last full day of school was a summer vegetable salad with Magret (duck breast), a soft poached egg with an orange, walnut oil and grain mustard vinaigrette. We began with the vegetables…

Chef Jim had assembled a virtual bouquet of local vegetables on a huge platter along with an assortment of herbs from the school’s garden. We began by applying our cheffy chopping techniques on the vegetables and herbs under Chef Jim’s direction, keeping in mind uniform pieces and appropriate sizing for cooking. The vegetables were assembled in bowls in sequence for blanching (i.e. quick partial cooking in boiling water followed by a plunge in cold water to stop the cooking and seal in the colour) and an assembly line of prospective chefs soon had the veg prepared.

We moved onto the dessert, a délice au chocolat with paillette feuillantine (?) and strawberry sorbet. A pile of broken dark chocolate was combined with nutella and folded in paillette feuillantine (like Rice Krispies). This was layered in a pan and then topped with a blend of eggs, double cream and more chocolate (the ”délice”)…rich? bet!

The weather had cleared up by lunch, which consisted of local fare again; paté, cheese, bread and sausage. After lunch we worked on the prep of the duck breasts (Magret) sourced from foie gras ducks. The skin and fat layer was lightly scored and the entire breast smeared with oil and seasoned before being seared, flesh side down, in a medium/high heated pan for about 2 minutes. This browned the flesh and the breast was flipped to cook for 6 to 8 minutes longer, skin side down, which drew out the duck fat into what Chef Jim described as a “veritable lake of duck fat”. The breast was removed from the heat and rested for about 10 minutes.

It’s no secret that I like duck but I’ve never tasted flavour that this dish created…as we tasted the sample pieces, I could have eaten the whole breast. However, it was slated to be cooled and sliced to be served on a bed of salad created from our blanched vegetables and topped with a warm poached egg. The class assembled their plates and gathered for our final dinner outdoors. We enjoyed our duck salad and could barely choke down the delicious chocolate creation, topped with homemade raspberry sorbet.

We concluded the evening with an exchange of e-mails and a group portrait and, apparently, some of the class enjoyed late night Scotch and pledges of undying commitment to each other…no names.

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